SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Hordichuk knows his role

Edmonton Oilers Darcy Hordichuk warms up before facing the Calgary Flames on February 21, 2012. (AL...

Edmonton Oilers Darcy Hordichuk warms up before facing the Calgary Flames on February 21, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

Darcy Hordichuk is literally fighting for a job next season.

Ironically, however, it probably won’t be his pugilistic abilities that determine whether the Edmonton Oilers try to bring him back for another year.

As an agitator, Hordichuk’s value lays in his ability to get under team’s skin, stir the pot and make his presence known when out on the ice.

He’ll get an opportunity to do that down the stretch, now drawing into the lineup on a regular basis.

“I think that everybody has a job to do on this team and I think that everyone is a little bit different,” said Hordichuk. “Any time you sit out, you have to use the opportunity to work hard and I feel like I’ve come back a little bit quicker and they’re getting a little bit more confidence in me and it’s nice to get an opportunity to play.

“Even if that means getting rotated out in the third with another player, I don’t mind because at least I’m in the lineup. And the fights lately have been coming a lot easier, because we’ve been playing some tough teams.”

Hordichuk was brought in this season to help protect the Oilers young, up-and-coming stars.

When in the lineup, the Kamsack, Sask., product has done his best to do that. He makes opponents looking to take runs at Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins accountable for their actions.

“I think I understand my role,” Hordichuk said. “Whether we’re down by a goal and need a spark or if someone is running around, then I’m willing to do that.

“People have been saying this is the way I need to play, but at the same time, I’ve been trying to do this the whole year. It’s about getting an opportunity and that’s what I’ve been given here. I’m enjoying it and I feel I’m playing my best hockey. Hopefully, they recognize that.”

With players such as Andy Sutton, Ben Eager, Theo Peckham and Ladislav Smid on the squad, Hordichuk hasn’t had to do all the heavy lifting on his own.

That’s one of the reasons he’s been in and out of the lineup this season.

Yet as a deterrent, Hordichuk’s has an inherent value. It is better to have a player like him on the team and not need him, than it is to need a player like him on the team and not have him.

The Oilers learned that lesson a few years ago when they let Georges Laraque go, exposing themselves to bullies around the league. “It’s good having him around, he keeps the locker room positive, he’s a great guy, who is always positive and on the ice he knows his job and he does it well,” said Smid. “He hits guys, he fights and we’re glad to have him on the team.”

Selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the sixth round — 180th overall — of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Hordichuk has clawed, scratched and fought his way through the league.

He’s spent time with the Thrashers, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks prior to landing in Edmonton.

The Oilers had actually attempted to bring Hordichuk to town a few years earlier, but lost out to the Canucks who had a couple of stars of their own that needed looking after.

This summer, Hordichuk signed a one-year contract with the Oilers, and heading into Monday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, has a pair of assists and 45 penalty minutes on the season.

“I think my value in the league, people have seen it for the last 11 years,” Hordichuk said. “If you look at the tough guys that are still out there, it’s all about being able to skate and provide more than just toughness.

“As the years have gone on, that’s something that I’ve been working on. I can still get there, still hit guys and still be looking to have an impact as opposed to just fighting guys.”

Having been in a similar situation in the past, Hordichuk knows what he needs to do try and earn another contract.

“You just hope that your work-ethic and your willingness to fight is recognized across the league and they see the value,” he said. “I love this team, I love protecting the guys that they have here and it’s something that I take pride in.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


Videos

Photos